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Don’t Touch The Slut

May 13, 2011

On June 19th, the organizers of Slut Walk are hoping that the streets of Seattle will spill over with scantily clad eye-candy that will incite all sorts of feelings in those who see them, but offer one clear message: Hands Off!  They’re not alone. On different days, in cities all over the world, Slut Walks are taking place as a way to drive home the point that, as women, we can be as sexy as we want, and you still do not have the right to have any sort of sexual contact with us, unless we want it.

Before we get into the culture of victim-blaming that Slut Walkers are hoping to beat off, I want to admit that I hate the word Slut.  I understand the motive – that we disempower the word by using it to reclaim our own rights and powers. I just don’t buy it, any more than I buy that using the word “nigger” makes you sound anything other than ignorant, regardless of your skin color. I think it’s like trying to take the power of nicotine away by chain-smoking. But if this movement – these sexy sluts strutting their stuff on city streets – gets dialog going, I’m willing to be a slut for a few hours.

I’m also willing to wear next to nothing while I do it. If that turns you on, that’s your deal. It still doesn’t give you the right to touch me.

This is pretty much the only crime for which we hold the victim responsible. Art theft? People love to look at art as much as they love to look at pretty women, yet no one would blame the Mona Lisa if someone absconded with her in the night.  Jewel theft? “It’s not my fault, it was so sparkly!” “You’re right, you could hardly be expected to control yourself in the face of such beauty.”

Yet, when a woman is sexually assaulted, people will ask what she was wearing, what she was doing and casually suggest that she was in some way responsible for her attack. Let’s be clear, this thinking goes way back in time. Well-established religions have mandated everything from the shaving or covering of hair to women covering their entire beings so as not to arouse sexual feelings of men. Why? Because men cannot be expected to control themselves in the presence of women’s beauty.

Bull shit.

You don’t steal paintings in museums. You don’t steal cars. You don’t eat every delicious cake you see just because you see it. Men, and everyone else, have the ability and responsibility to control themselves, even when sporting wood.

The responsibility for sexual assault lands squarely on the shoulders – and cock, hands and mouth – of the assailant. Period.

Slut Walk was reportedly sparked after a Canadian police officer advised “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  In a well-publicized gang-rape of an 11 year-old girl, the New York Times quoted someone as saying that the girl  “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground…”   As if that explains how more than 20 teenage boys would think it was okay to hold her hostage and rape her for hours.

When I was raped at the age of 17 – at gunpoint, by someone who broke into my home and raped me in my own bed – I was asked what I was wearing at the time. When I reported that I was asleep, in bed, naked, I was asked if I always slept naked. And then asked what I had worn to work that evening. I explained that I was a hostess in a restaurant, a comment that was met with something along the lines of, “so you’d say you dressed to be attractive?”

Yes. I usually do. That’s why I shower, brush my teeth, you know, engage in hygiene. It’s not so that someone will rape me.

Since that time I have been very active in regaining not only my own sexuality, but the sexual autonomy of everyone on this planet. Part of that is trying to figure out how to eliminate sexual violence. I was shocked to realize that the way to end sexual violence is really simple: DO NOT FORCE ANYONE TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU.

The end to sexual violence starts and ends with people not forcing others to have sex with them. Young, old, male, female; it doesn’t matter. Sex without consent is RAPE. There is no such thing as sex without consent. Alcohol is not consent. Short skirts are not consent. Intimidation is not consent. Fear is not consent.

“No” does not mean “yes.”

I hate that we even use terms like “date rape,” as if it is somehow different from other rape. Or that we call “incest” and “pedophilia” anything other than “raping a child,” because that’s what it is.

Rape is rape. It is always wrong.

No one asks for it. No one deserves it. And the only person who causes it is the person who did it.

So yes, I’ll be walking in the Slut Walk, hopefully with a gallery of my gorgeous girlfriends. I may even make a picture frame for myself as a way of saying, “yes, I am a spectacular work of art, and just like in a museum, you can look but you can’t touch.”

____
I’ve written and spoken a lot about rape, here are some links that may be helpful:

Who You Do Know Can Hurt You – a look at acquaintance rape, which is the vast majority of rapes.

Talking to Kids bout Rape – how to make a hard talk a little easier

Life After Rape – my survivor story, along with several others and tips from experts helping women regain their self and sexuality after rape.

Being  Bad Is Perfectly Good – about Rihanna’s  video that was censored around the world, but is an awesome message of sexual empowerment and the right to do and be however you want, even if it’s really hot!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lan permalink
    May 14, 2011 4:14 pm

    Women are art? Is this the point you wanted to convey? What is this to say of men? Men are simply consumers of art, or women? Women are a commodity to be sought, admired and possibly purchased by men?

    This all seems quite counter-productive. I firmly believe that looking and not touching is the way every human being should conduct themselves, but I can’t stand the bombardment of arguments against men who fall for the patriarchal society we live in, but not the women who are obviously perpetuating the trend. A man is condemned, rightfully so, for encouraging women to dress in frilly clothes or ask her to remover her top at Madi Gras. But for the ladies who go out and engage in these behaviors are “taking power back” by doing the exact thing piggish men want them to do? I feel like this is only objectifying women further by saying, “we are art.” The “look but don’t touch” theme is something I agree on, but as I said before, to say that women are art literally puts men in the position of consumer. One has perpetuated the male gaze that has plagued so many lives.

    Perhaps I’m a bit out of touch. However, I don’t think that this walk is without merit. I encourage anyone who wishes to show off their body and style to do so with no shame whatsoever. Like we all should.

  2. Alyssa Royse permalink*
    May 14, 2011 4:24 pm

    Lan – I firmly believe that men are art too! As much as I love looking at them, I’m very clear that I can’t touch them either, unless they want it. (And they do not ALWAYS want it!)

    I agree with all of your points, but do still think that women’s bodies are treated more directly as sexual objects, and men are less so. Men are more likely to believe that they have a “right” to treat a woman as a sexual object just because she appeals to him sexually. And yes, I think it is society that has done men a tremendous disservice here.

    As I said, I have very mixed feelings about using the word “slut,” and even the nature of the walk itself. That said, if it gets the conversation going and simplifies the point to it’s lowest common denominator so that everyone “gets it,” I’m all for it. And hopefully we can quickly move to the more nuanced arguments. Personally, I prefer the pendulum swinging too far this way, to when it swung to the place where in order to appear strong an autonomous, women were trying to be more like men. But that’s just me – I’m a girlie girl, and an incorrigible flirt.

  3. Lan permalink
    May 14, 2011 4:42 pm

    Thanks for your input!

    This definitely clears things up for me. My understanding of the use of “art” was askew.

    I completely agree. Women are treated like sex objects, more so than men, as has been encouraged by the cultural norm. Men should not feel any right to touch anyone without consent. But, I’m especially glad you mention that not all men want to be touched. Something that I can’t stand is the idea that all men think men want to be touched. Sure, it’s nice to be desired, but we have to play by the same rules. It’s often considered feminine (OH NO!) for a man not to desire physical contact constantly. I doubt I have to explain the many things wrong with such an assumption. I definitely appreciate seeing another person’s understanding of this.

  4. Amanda permalink
    May 14, 2011 6:33 pm

    I’ve debated this topic with a number of people and fully support what you have written here! Thank you for sharing how you feel about this and your own experience! It takes real courage to stand up and present an argument in a mature way rather than what some people have done/do. I’m also very happy to hear that you will be participating.

    I’m so tired of some men who seem to think that only feminists (or as someone I know puts it, Dykes in disguise) feel this way! I don’t agree with the way some women/girls decide to dress today or what parents allow their children to wear but only for their own self respect. I don’t like the term slut and don’t understand the desire to “take it back”. Another thing is that people who dress “slutty” does not mean that they are sluts or want to get screwed! I’m so tired of that misconception. I also believe it is up to a woman to have sex however with whoever as long it is between consenting adults. If you like sex and don’t worry about the connotation, stigma, diseases, or emotional connection then go for it.

    I too was raped and molested. At no point did anyone say it was my fault (except my mom, long story) but then again when both things happened I was underage. Unfortunately in some ways it still affects me today but I’m ok. Anyway… bravo!

  5. stute permalink
    May 16, 2011 4:19 pm

    I make no excuses for my appreciation of the female form. As a dad, I despise some of the clothes my daughter wears, but she is of age and it not my business anymore to criticize. Like it made much difference when she was younger. I celebrate you, Alyssa. There is no excuse for those who abused you and your and others in the sisterhood. I just heard rumor the Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest your walk. In solidarity, I might just come to cheer you on. Big love.

  6. June 21, 2011 5:04 pm

    All of you were amazing. Lions on the podium, lions in the streets. Heroes.

  7. Julie permalink
    October 1, 2011 6:03 pm

    I think there are two main places where men get confused about this subject
    1) They don’t understand the difference between saying the victim made a bad choice vs. that the victim caused the rape. I fully agree that no one has a right to my body no matter what I’m wearing. I could be walking around naked and no one has a right to rape me. However, I would admit that it would be stupid of me to walk around naked and expect nothing to happen to me. I think men think that victim blaming is no more than just saying the victim shouldn’t have been out that late alone or wearing a dress that tight. They don’t realize that these little things actually make a huge difference in whether the police will take a report seriously and later on, whether the perpetrator will be convicted in court or if the judge and jury will decide that she was just a slut who was asking for it.
    2) They assume the stories about police blaming the victim for wearing “slutty” clothes only happens when women are genuinely wearing “slutty” clothes. They don’t understand that this happens all the time and pretty much no matter what a woman is wearing. They don’t find that the woman was wearing slutty clothes, they look for it. The policemen who answer these sorts of calls obviously know very little about rape except that it’s forced sex. Thinking that it’s only a sexual thing, it seems obvious to them that there must have been *something* that tempted the rapist. With that mindset, it’s natural for them to look for the most revealing part of the woman’s outfit and say “aha! That’s what it was!” So you could be wearing a t-shirt and shorts and since the shorts show a lot of leg, it was obviously because you were wearing the shorts. You could be wearing jeans and a hoodie, and it was obviously that the jeans were too tight. He could see the shape of your legs!
    As a large-breasted woman, I know all too well that there is no hiding these no matter how hard I try. I desperately hope it never happens, but if I ever do get raped, I know that it wont matter what I’m wearing, the police will still easily be able to point out that the shirt (which might show nothing on many women) shows my cleavage and that the poor man just couldn’t help himself. I practically forced him to have sex with me because of how slutty I look. Sounds more like I raped him. -_-

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